Fried Fish and Beer


Stephen asks:

“Do you know anything about the Old Woolwich Road and Orlop Street area in the 1910s/1920. My family once lived at 14 Orlop Street and 9 Old Woolwich Road (which I believe was the Princess Alice Pub). Also are there any Blakeley’s still living in Greenwich?”

The Phantom replies:

Twentieth century history in Greenwich is much harder to find than the really old stuff, curiously enough, especially in ‘poor’ areas like the East, but there’s a little hope at hand, which I’ll talk about in a moment.

First a little pre-history – in the marvellous online version of Charlet Booths notebooks that I was mentioning the other day, both Orlop Street and Old Woolwich Road are mentioned, though not really in what you might call glowing terms.

Orlop Street wasn’t the sort of place you’d want to go of a dark night:

“A row of modern houses facing south. Two floors and a basement. Venetian blinds, many kept down. Very poor class. One or two rooms. Labourers who don’t work; wives do washing. “They live on fried fish and beer.” Not on map.”

In King William Lane, which ran between Orlop St and Old Woolwich Road,  ”Only a rag shop, on west side. Man is poor but works hard.” 

Booth considered Old Woolwich Road a little more mixed:

(Trafalgar Road to Marlboro’ St.) On north side is a row of 2 storied houses. Most of the people keep the house (Hardy lives in one of them.) (Hardy ? Perhaps a descendent of the Admiral? – TGP) From Northumberland St to Marlboro’ St the houses are new. 2 Floors + attic. better class people (a word I can’t read- TGP) a few servants here and there. Pink, to park houses. The south side is 3 + 2 storey houses, near all are old except a row new Trafalgar Road. Pink. N up Purple on map. 

So – you get the picture – we’re not talking Crooms Hill here. By the twentieth century things hadn’t changed an awful lot if the only book I’ve every read that mentions Orlop Street is anything to go by. 

Remember Greenwich(I reviewed it back in 2008) is, a totally different Stephen has tipped me off, currently to be found on Amazon Marketplace at a single shiny penny, (+p&p, natch.) Take my advice, East Greenwichers. Spend a penny (so to speak). Iris Bryce’s account of East Greenwich in the early to mid 20th Century is fabulous – personal, well-written and, unlike so many local memoires that just waffle a bit about blacking and taking a trip to Margate in a charabanc, tells a driving story that is almost novel-like in its pacing. I love her account of working in the Crown pub, and being allowed up to the landlady’s boudoir, a magical realm of velvet and plush, fringing, flounces and furbelows.

Iris Bryce tells a story of strict social strata – and her place within it. Her family were poor – but that didn’t stop her parents being snobby about people less well off than them. They lived south of Trafalgar Road, which meant that the people on north side might as well live on Mars. She was strictly forbidden, in particular, to have anything to do with the tough kids who lived in Orlop Street, and she was actually rather scared of them. I confess I’ve always been rather fond of this sweet, one-sided street; it’s somewhat smarter these days.

I’ve been trying to work out which would have been number 9 Old Woolwich Road and it appears to have been opposite what is now Frobisher Court at number 10, and is photographed by yet another Stephen (Craven, since I have to mention his full name under the CC license). Seamus (who could at least have changed his name by deed-poll for the purposes of this post) was asking me about it recently, but I have to admit I’ve not found out much. It has the date 1834 above its original name, The Man In the Moon. I can’t find out much about it, but Mary was mentioning the other day that it was the site of a murder before it was converted. I intend to find out more about that. 

That would put the Princess Alice in that little sliver of land that is being used as a car park by Greenwich Inc. I find myself wondering if it was a younger pub than the Man in the Moon, and whether perhaps it was named not for Queen Victoria’s ‘forgotten’ third daughter but the terrible disaster of the SS Princess Alice which collided with the Bywell Castle in 1878 (by weird coincidence the same year that the real Princess Alice died.)

If you’re interested, there’s a list of landlords here – it starts shortly after the disaster.

So – more to find out. This is a work in progress after all…


the attachments to this post:

maninthemoon stephen craven
maninthemoon stephen craven


6 Comments to “Fried Fish and Beer”

  1. Ebspig says:

    The name always used to make my father smile (the lowest habitable deck of a ship). It was my ambition, as a very young person, to live there. Haven’t achieved the ambition – yet…

  2. Blimey – I never knew that. Well – that says a certain something, doesn’t it…

    Should we put in a petition to change Hyde Vale to Poop Street?

  3. Ebspig says:

    Oooh yes – and Norman Road could be Bilge Lane…

  4. Mary says:

    Orlop Street was built and managed by Morden College – I would get over to their archive sharpish and ask Elizabeth if she has anything on file

  5. kate p says:

    Iris not available for 1p any more – such is the power of a GTP recommendation, all the cheap ones seem to have been snapped up! Cheapest is £4.76 (+ £2.80 p+p) just now!

  6. Bea Starr says:

    My primary school is opposite the building (Meridian Primary School). I love how the windows had been bricked up. The long narrow one always amazed me, alongside the court yard in the middle… All very exciting :)